chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Thailand

Gold Statues

I flew out of Osaka on December 22nd, and met up with Gillian and Heather in Bangkok. Upon my arrival to the guest house on Khao San Road (backpacker's ghetto in Bangkok), I was greeted by an old man, covered in blood, being yelled at by his transvestite prostitute. "He took my money!" I was too tired to even register the fact that this was weird and probably something I should be worried about. Welcome to Thailand! Anyway, the next day, we were supposed to meet up with Anita, but her Air Myanmar (what??!) flight had been delayed a whole day. So we toured Bangkok. Many pics available online. That night we finally met up with Anita in the airport (after waiting through 3 push-backs on the arrival time). Next day, we fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui (an island in the Gulf of Thailand). We took a ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan. This island was our destination for 6 glorious days. We started at an amazing resort on the northeastern coast, and made our way to another resort on the western coast. Our bungalows at the first place were high up on a hill, so we had a great view of the sunrises (I don't think we ever saw one though...). The beach was kind of secluded (a 1.5 hour 'taxi' ride through the forested mountains. The taxis were literally benches in the back of a pickup. Fun times hanging on!). All we did was eat, sleep, sunbathe, and swim. Great! We had planned on going to the full moon party (a very huge rave on the southeastern beach), but we got 'distracted'. We did make it to the same beach for the new year's eve party. A good time (despite Heather stubbing her toe)! We snorkeled on the west coast.

Gillian, Anita, and Heather

Anita's friend Sophie was supposed to meet the four of us on Koh Phangan. She was to fly from Pusan, South Korea, but, she missed her flight! Her friend, Janie, ended up joining us on the beach, but since Sophie wasn't there, we had no idea who she was. But it was cool in the end. Sophie came a day later, but could only stay a couple of days before heading back. It was a lot of fun hanging out with 5 people! We celebrated Christmas together (a couple days late) with a 'Furtive Fanta' (Secret Santa) gift exchange.

TSUNAMI?

Yeah, so we had no idea there was a serious tsunami until maybe the 28th. I got an e-mail from a couple of friends on Dec. 26th about an earthquake/tsunami, but at the time, the death toll was 600+. No one knew of the extent of damage or death, so I wasn't concerned about informing my parents that I was okay. At the time of the tsunami, we were asleep in our bungalow on the other side of the Thai peninsula. We were relatively close to Phuket and Krabi, but news does not travel fast on an isolated beach on a tiny island. (Especially when power is on for only 5 hours in the evening.) When we finally understood what had happened, we tried to contact our family (stupid time difference). They were all throughly freaked out. Anita's family contacted Heather's and Gillian's families! I can understand the fear that CNN & Co. must have instilled in everyone back home. When you're not inundated with information, tragedies like these do not seem so overwhelming. (Even though they are horrible. It's more like a rumor than an event.) Looking back, it seems kind of surreal that we were continuing our vacation with milkshakes and swimming, all while 1000 km away, people were dying. But, c'est la vie. You can't control anything.

Resort

ON TRACK

Janie decided to stay on Koh Phangan, and Sophie flew back home. That left Anita, Heather, Gillian, and I. We took a ferry from Koh Phangan to Surrattani (on the mainland) on Jan. 1st. From there, we straightaway flew back to Bangkok. Arriving in Bangkok kind of hit home the tsunami incident. (Because, honestly, we kept forgetting about it.) There were many embassies setup at the exit area of domestic arrivals. You were supposed to register with your country, but Canada's guy disappeared. (So random and irritating.)

Anyway, we left Anita in Bangkok so she could catch her flight back to India the next day. (She is working in India in a CIDA internship position, BTW.) So many goodbyes in one trip! Anita and I had managed to hang out in Bangkok together, and we got our caricatures drawn on the street! Sweet!

Heather, Gillian, and I flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) on Jan. 2nd. We spent the next day walking around the city with Gillian's cousin, Tom. We had a good time! Enjoyed an amazing breakfast near our hostel, saw many wats (see pics), and went shopping at the night market (both at day and at night). In the evening, we met up with Tom's Thai friend, DJ A. This guy was hilarious! He drove us around the city on the back of a motorcycle. It was much less frightening than I had imagined! Tom had a bike too. They took us to the night market and to dinner. Good times.

The day after that, we took a local bus to Pai (pronounced "bye"), in the Mae Han Son province (bordering Myanmar). This place was a cute little village that has welcomed visa-running tourists with open arms. We got massages, rode elephants, rode motorcycles, drank, floated down a river on a raft, and basically did nothing all day.

Elephant

BACK TO THE FUTURE

After Pai, we slowly made our way back to Japan. We stopped in Bangkok for one last day of crazy shopping. I had to take money out twice that day! That eve, I flew to Nagoya, and the next morning, Heather and Gillian flew to Fukuoka.

When I went back to work, I had to give 15 PowerPoint presentations on my trip to the students. By the end of it, I was sick of Thailand! And I felt like a complete asshole talking about my vacation in front of my teachers who never take vacations. But, I loved it when the students freaked out at my elephant photos! I had one first year kid scream, "OH REALLY?!?!!" (That's one of their favourite phrases that they learned from the textbook.) So cute!
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